Tricounty News

A winter with snow brought voles

After two years of amnesty due to lighter snowfall, homeowners are finding vole damage in their yards again this spring. The damage can be identified by small surface tunnels winding through areas in the lawn accompanied by piles of dead grass. There may also be small dish like depressions filled with grass. This damage is the result of voles which are small mouse-like rodents that feed under the snow throughout the winter. Usually, the damage can be repaired by simply raking the area well to remove the dead grass. Normally the grass has been eaten to soil level and the roots will send up new vegetative growth. If, after a while, there is no new growth of the grass, the areas should be loosened up with a garden rake and reseeded with a good lawn seed mixture. To discourage voles and prevent damage to the lawn next winter, keep the lawn mowed regularly until freezing and remove excessive thatch. You might consider lowering the lawnmower slightly, but do not mow the grass shorter than two inches or the crowns of the lawn grasses will be subject to winter injury. Eliminate any weeds, wild grasses or litter from around the lawn so it does not provide food and cover for the voles. If active runways are present in the lawn, trapping may be effective. Mouse traps baited with a mixture of peanut butter and rolled oats should be placed adjacent to the runways or in areas where voles are active. There are some poison baits labeled for outdoor use against voles and readily available mouse and rat baits can be effective. In late fall or early winter, create a bait station by placing about a tablespoon of dry pelleted bait in a soup can, beverage can or a jar and lay it on its side. Place the bait stations in areas that were damaged by voles this winter and near young trees or shrubs. Check the bait stations several times a week before snowfall and replace any bait that has been consumed; keep them in place throughout the winter under the snow. Be sure to read and follow all directions and precautions on the label of the poison you purchase to use in the bait stations. Bait stations should be used with extreme caution because they may pose a threat to children and pets. They should be removed in the spring as soon as the snow melts. Meanwhile, if voles have damaged the lawn, just rake the area well to remove all the dead grass and it will usually repair itself.